By Magdalena Hill
Magdalena Hill is a Houston-based improviser and playwright who can be seen onstage at Station Theater. She was raised by two 90s comedy nerds and, if needed, will spout random pop culture references.
Happy 2019, everyone! I wonder what fresh hell this year will bring! However, despite my pessimism, I am excited to see what works are produced this year. A musical? Probably, but I for one, am hoping for a play, a real play, that will sweep the theater community off its feet.
We do need a play to dominate the minds of geeky theater nerds and oddly passionate adults this year. Why? Because while musicals are fun and moving, I haven’t heard buzz about a play in a while. People seem to be less and less aware of the great modern playwrights and the potential of new ones. In this political and social climate, there is so much material to feed off of to keep an audience focused for at least an hour without catchy songs.
I don’t hate musicals, but I feel that the buzz around musical theater has taken attention away from the original play. And yes, revivals of classic American plays are heartfelt (I would love to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on a major stage once again), but we need to be advocating for playwrights who are extremely talented and, most likely, extremely broke and could use our help with their bills.
I recently saw a high school rendition of The Bald Soprano that had been slightly rewritten to reflect our current daily lives. The characters were constantly on their phones, one recited the infamous Longest Sentence in the World by Donald Trump, and one monologue even began with, “In case you were wondering, I’m not vegan anymore”. It had the audience howling, and it got me thinking about how plays this year might be more relevant than ever before.
2018, while maybe not as eventful as some years before, still had many moments that caused a public outcry. The #MeToo movement is an obvious topic that should be anticipated for all art forms next year, but immigration, the Parkland shooting, and multiple pop culture events are all important to reflect on through the stage as well. There are many other issues that have still been swept under the rug that people need to confront (e.g., mental illness, the wealth gap, education).
And plays are the perfect way to convey the frustration and need for change. When the Red Scare tensed America in the 1950s, Arthur Miller wrote and produced The Crucible, which left the audience speechless after the curtain fell for the first time. Angels in America premiered less than a decade after the AIDS epidemic terrorized the gay community. Plays have a more honest way of telling stories when it comes to injustice and pain because they are more realistic.
Bursting out into random song is entertaining and can be moving, but it is nothing compared to
seeing someone react and/or suffer in a genuinely human fashion.
So, as this new year begins, and we continue to hold our breaths as we wait for the next stupid decision or corruption to reveal itself, let’s take some time to support and give some attention to plays and playwrights. They work so hard to let us experience different stories and perspectives in such a short amount of time. And, of course, enjoy some musicals, because they are fun, too.
(Photo from Plush Design Studio)